By Yunus S Saliu
The Minister of Tourism and Culture (MoTC) presiding over the recently launched and signing of the tripartite Agreement between the Biddy’s Promotion, The Gambia Fashion Designers and the National Centre for Arts and Culture (NCAC) has cautioned the partners to avoid the pitfalls of the previous especially when it comes to prizes offered.
Honourable Hamat NK Bah warned, “do not promise prizes you cannot offer to the winners, and remember, the Miss Gambia Pageant must not be used as a vehicle to sexually exploit women and girls.”
Adding to this, he noted that, recently, stories have surfaced of sexual exploitation of beauty queens in some parts of Africa, “this cannot be allowed to happen here. Participants must be fully protected from sexual assault and fully insured and wish confirmed parental permission.” These are critical ground rules that must observe, he emphasized.
The Minister used the occasion to remember all the previous Miss Gambia Beauty Queens which include Elizabeth Renner, Abie Barry, Mirabelle Carayol, Ndey Jagne, while he disclosed that everyone is looking forward to seeing the contestants in action as soon as possible for the event.
Commending the NCAC for its tremendous work done to see the realization of this great partnership, he reminded the partners that the Miss Gambia Beauty Pageant has a rich history and tradition dating to 1964 when Elizabeth Renner was judged as the first Miss Gambia to coincide with the Independence celebrations of The Gambia. And from 1964 to 2001, the pageant was held regularly by various entities such as the Meta Youth Club, Banzig Club, and also sometimes, it was organized by individual investors.
In this regard, “I wish to remember the hardworking people in the like of Messrs George Gomez, Sering Secka, of blessed memory, who for many years had the singular courage and determination to keep the Miss Gambia Pageant alive,” Minister Bah paid tribute to old organizers.
But it is very sad that, for the past 20 years, this important event has not been held due to many different challenges, as “the Miss Gambia brand fell into disrepute due to scandals associated with it. This includes but is not limited to, the failure, of organizers to honour prize commitments to winners. Secondly, the Miss Gambia Beauty Pageant becomes embroiled in funding difficulties, and organizing the pageant is a capital-intensive venture. And thirdly, it seemed the Miss Gambia Beauty Pageant was like a free for all event which every Tom, Dick, and Harry thought they had ownership of and were shamelessly exploiting or even misusing it,” the Minister highlighted.
While also commending the partners, Biddy’s and Gambia Fashion Association for believing in the Miss Gambia project, he challenged the NCAC to take up the ownership of the brand Miss Gambia, and protect its image and status as a national event.
Among other significance of the event, he said Miss Gambia Beauty Pageant has lots of potential as a tourism product, as a cultural event, and also as a mirror for Gambian womanhood and beauty “this is why we need to ensure that only bona fide organizers can be given the franchise to organize it. So, the partners are only given a franchise, the brand remains the property of the Gambia government.”